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Master of Disasters Continued from page 4

Again, Hodgson called upon Strauss and Shockley along with Clark from Alabama, for their help to create another documentary about a unique disaster. The crew had less than two weeks to prepare for the East Coast trip and only six days to shoot 33 interviews. After flying to Washington, D.C., renting one Suburban and stuffing it with suitcases and gear, they were ready to go. “Those were 16-hour days,” Hodgson said. “I mean, literally, we would shoot for 16 hours, get back to the hotel, get six hours of sleep, eat, get up and then we were back on for the next day.” Hodgson did the driving while Clark was on the phone setting up everything from hotel stays to interviews. Strauss and Shockley were “along for the ride” during those times, but when they arrived at their destinations, it was time to work. “We were hopping from station to station talking to station managers, weathercasters and news anchors,” Shockley said. “We would set up as quick as we could, film the interview, tear everything down and do it all over again later.” After their long days in the field they would sort out all of the media at the hotel and even do some post production. Organization and quickness were key during the entire trip. Hodgson was in the middle of expanding the Sandy project into a full-length documentary when the NAB called again. This time the disaster was very close to home – the May 20th tornado in Moore, Okla. Hodgson and his crew knew exactly what to do. Within a day of the storm, they were in Moore shooting the damage and interviewing weather and news personnel at local radio and television stations. Because the OU crew was on the scene so quicly, they were able to capture in real time the postdisaster value of broadcasters. “You don’t understand the effort they put into it,” Hodgson said. “They go wall to wall and they’re spending millions of dollars to do this because of community service.” Most importantly, the stations explained that it means much more than just giving a weather report to each city.

WEB CONTENT You can view the three short documentaries on Professor Scott Hodgson’s personal vimeo profile at user17430968.

“Everybody we talked to said, ‘It’s our community and we have a responsibility for our audience and we connect with our audience,’” Hodgson said. No matter the danger of the situation, they keep reporting and informing their community, even when their own homes are being destroyed during the process. “They’re trying to balance all that,” Hodgson said. “Hats off to the spouses and the kids of these folks, because you know it’s tough sometimes when a disaster comes. They leave and they’re not there because they have other responsibilities.” Nonetheless, Hodgson, Strauss and Shockley have a much greater appreciation for local broadcasting and their impact. “These documentaries are meant to say, ‘Listen, because local broadcasting exists, they save lives,’” Shockley said. Even Hodgson, who dusted off his master tapes and went into education to make memorable and beautiful pieces, realized how happy he was that he made that decision. “You feel very proud to be a member of this profession,” said Hodgson, who recently pitched the pieces to the National Geographic and Smithsonion Channel. “It’s a lot of work, and just to see the amount of effort to put on one of these things, it’s a technological phenomenon.” Rachel Goodwin is a junior broadcast journalism major from Eufaula, Okla., who plans to explore the world after graduation. Through her love for writing and design, she would like to produce her own travel show someday.


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“Jon knew the storm would ignite in Newcastle and that’s where we were when it all started,” said Boettcher. The two chased the tornado right to Moore and to the door of the Briarwood Elementary School, which took a direct hit. “The tornado was coming right at us,” said Haverfield. “The debris was very large; it was the biggest tornado I’ve seen, and the roar was loud and similar to a waterfall sound.” Fearing for their lives, the two moved to safer ground temporarily and then came back to the school—not to report at that moment but to help with the rescue. “Near Briarwood there was panic in the air. Parents were arriving and were searching for their kids,” described Haverfield. “The cries I heard from the mothers is something that I never want to hear again.” It was at the school when Boettcher realized this storm was like no other he had covered. “As I was walking in towards Briarwood, I was following a grandmother who was in tears,” Boettcher recollected. “She was asking people that passed her if they knew what happened at the school. She pleaded, ‘Has anyone seen my granddaughter?’ “We probably walked a half a mile with her through the destruction,” he added. “She was devastated. She finally made it to the elementary school and saw that all the children there had

survived. Seeing the relief on her face was the only good thing for me up until that point.” Boettcher is no stranger to scenes like this one. He has covered tragedies such as the 1999 Moore tornado as a network correspondent, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and recently won two national Emmy Awards for his coverage of the war in Afghanistan. “It was worse than anything that I’ve ever seen in a war zone,” said Boettcher. “This tornado did something that I hadn’t seen before. Every house was a pile of debris. It didn’t take a house and throw it to the four winds. It took the house and crushed it. Every house was a pile of sticks.” Boettcher added, “Even in the 1999 Moore tornado, I don’t remember the damage being quite like that. It was remarkable.” Boettcher now plans on using this experience as he teaches the next generation of journalism students how to cover breaking news. “In this era of immediate news coverage, you don’t have time to sit down and reflect,” he said. “You have to describe the scene as you are moving through it live. I want to try to give the students the tools they need to do that.” Kathy Johnson is the McMahon Centennial Professor and teaches entrepreneurial journalism and broadcast journalism courses.


Pulse 2013  
Pulse 2013  

Alumni magazine of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.